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A mathematical approach to luck

I am not a scientist but even get swept up in the maelstrom of mathematical images in this poem.

Michael Grieve describes and analyses the concept of luck in different scenarios. He explores cheating with a coin, gambling, card playing and betting. Luck, however, is about more than the nature of luck. It charts the downwards spiral towards a form of oblivion.

The narrator moves from the initial pub scene to explore the ever-increasing demands of the pursuit of chance. I was intrigued by mathematical references such as ‘Graham’s number’. These drew me into the ‘chance of chaos’.

Grieve implies that gambling has much in common with the apparently random but potentially influential repetitive patterning of chaos theory (if I have understood the science correctly).

The pace gets more intense as the poem progresses. It peaks when the poet leaves the word ‘kugelblitzed’ hanging at end of the page:

             [ ... ]            Eye to lidless eye
with cosmic background radiation
I kugelblitzed

The word ‘kugelblitzed’ is aggressive and powerful with its range of hard consonants. It marks the moment the internal battle has serious and damaging consequences. The narrator at this point is completely immersed in the chaos of gambling and left in a hypersensitive physical state:

                   I felt neutrinos crash
against my skin and magma thunder
underneath me like a train.

The other-worldly strangeness of the terms ‘neutrinos’ and ‘magma’ has a power of its own, reinforced by the strong verbs at the line endings. These feelings, post-experience, cause an apparent change of heart and the narrator makes a promise (to himself or someone else?) to make a change.

The last stanza, however, takes us back to the top of a slippery slope....

Sue Wallace-Shaddad